What’s a Shelter in Place Order, and Whos Affected?

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As the novel coronavirus spreads across the nation, cities and states are taking increasingly drastic measures to curb the severity of the pandemic. Over the past two weeks, local government officials from Washington state to New York and Louisiana have shuttered bars and restaurants, imposed curfews, and prohibited large gatherings in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, which has infected people in all 50 states and killed hundreds of Americans. Recent spikes in infections also have led officials to issue “shelter in place” orders, one of the more stringent measures available to authorities—save a full quarantine or lockdown—to compel residents to stay in their homes and limit movement.

Shelter in place orders are traditionally used by local officials during or immediately after an emergency, like a mass shooting, chemical spill, or natural disaster. In recent weeks, state and local officials have retooled the measure to help limit the spread of Covid-19 by mandating residents stay in their homes and limit travel to essential trips, like picking up groceries, going to the bank, or receiving medical care. Some shelter in place orders have provisions permitting residents to walk or exercise outside in public spaces, so long as they stay 6 feet away from others.

Shelter in place orders generally close all nonessential businesses and prohibit their employees from leaving their homes to work, though the definition of “essential” businesses can vary depending on the specifics of the order. Roughly one in two Americans is now covered by a shelter in place order.

This guide will be updated as new restrictions are imposed or lifted. Last Update: 7 pm ET, March 25, 2020

Where shelter in place orders have been issued
Alabama

The mayors of Auburn and Opelika asked residents to shelter in place starting March 22. Residents of the two cities should only leave their homes for essential activities, like buying groceries or going to the doctor. “You should not host gatherings of people outside of your immediate family,” reads a statement from the East Alabama Medical Center, the organization working with the two cities to contain the virus.

Alaska

The city of Anchorage issued an emergency order directing its residents to “hunker down” to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order, which went into effect March 22 at 10 pm, mandates that nonessential businesses cease operations and that residents only leave their homes to obtain food, medical care, or "to get fresh air without contacting others."

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The order urges at-risk people, and those with whom share a household, not to do their own shopping and stay indoors as much as possible. Some of the businesses permitted to stay open include: health care facilities, grocery stores, marijuana dispensaries, shelters, media companies, hardware stores, businesses that supply products needed for people to work at home, childcare facilities (to be used only by those who need childcare to work an essential job), hotels, shipping and delivery services, and laundromats, among many others. Restaurants and bars may stay open only for delivery and take out.

The cities of Ketchikan and Sitka issued similar shelter in place orders.

Arizona

The Navajo Nation ordered all residents to shelter in place beginning March 20. The bulk of the Navajo Nation’s territories are located in Arizona, but the order also applies to Navajo land in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. "Navajo Nation citizens are required to stay home and undertake only those outings absolutely necessary for their health, safety, or welfare," reads the order. As elsewhere, residents are permitted to leave their homes to obtain groceries, medical care, and to take care of their family and pets.

California

On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million Californians to shelter in place until further notice. The order came after 11 Californian counties and cities had issued local shelter in place orders over the previous week in an attempt to contain the spreading of coronavirus.

Essential state and local government functions are open, as are gas stations, health care facilities, pharmacies, banks, laundromats, and stores that sell food, such as grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, and convenience stores. Bars, taverns, and restaurants are closed, though establishments that serve food are permitted to provide takeout and delivery services so long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Business in sectors identified by the government as critical to the security and continuity of the US are also permitted to stay open. This includes the chemical industry, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, health care and public health, information technology, nuclear materials, transportation systems, and water systems.

Some businesses consider themselves more essential than government officials do. Most notably, Tesla kept operating its Fremont assembly plant until the local sheriff ordered the electric vehicle maker to shut down.

"Our goal is simple, we want to bend the curve, and disrupt the spread of the virus," says Newsom’s executive order.

Californians are permitted to leave their homes to obtain health care, as well as food and other essential supplies; walk their dogs; and care for family and friends. But otherwise they are supposed to stay inside. The order is legally enforceable, and violations can result in a misdemeanor with up to six months imprisonment or $1,000, Newsom said in a press conference. He added that he hopes social pressures will be enough to make residents think twice before gathering during a pandemic.

Colorado

Residents of Denver and Boulder were ordered to shelter in place beginning March 24 at 5 pm. Marijuana dispensaries are exempt from the Denver order so long as customers follow “extreme physical distancing” measures, Mayor Michael B. Hancock said.

A shelter in place order issued by authorities in Colorado’s San Miguel County took effect March 18 and will last until at least April 3. The area contains five towns, including Telluride. “If we invest in the short-term inconveniences of isolation and sheltering in place now, we will save lives,” Grace Franklin, director of the county’s Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement.

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All nonresidents and other visitors to San Miguel County were ordered to leave the area and return to their homes, and all hotels, motels, and short-term rentals had to cease operations. The order notes that non resident homeowners (i.e., people who have a vacation home in the area but live elsewhere) are ostensibly permitted to stay, but it strongly encouraged them to leave or not travel to San Miguel County.

Connecticut

Governor Ned Lamont issued a shelter in place order for all 3.5 million Connecticut residents beginning March 23 at 8 pm. Much like the orders impacting California, Illinois, and New York, residents are only permitted to leave their homes to obtain health care, food, or provide services deemed "essential" by the state. All nonessential group gatherings of any size are prohibited, and individuals leaving their homes to obtain essential services are not permitted to travel in groups, and recommended to limit their use of public transportation. Residents may only engage in outdoor recreational activities like walking, hiking, or exercising so long as they can maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.

Delaware

Governor John Carney ordered all Delaware residents to shelter in place beginning March 24 at 8 am. The order will be in effect till May 15 or “until the public health threat is eliminated,” the governor’s office said. Much like California and New York’s orders, Delaware residents may only leave their homes to obtain food, health care, work at an essential business, or exercise while remaining at least 6 feet away from others.

“This was not an easy decision, but it’s the right decision to protect the safety of Delawareans and Delaware families,” said Carney. “If you have any questions about whether you should be staying home or going out, stay home.”

Florida

Residents of Miami Beach were ordered to shelter in place beginning March 24. Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference he had no plans to issue a similar order statewide, citing the possible impacts on residents’ mental health.

Georgia

Commissioners in Athens-Clarke County, home to the University of Georgia, issued a shelter in place order on March 19. The order is effective until April 7 but could be extended. The order is nearly identical to the one in place in San Miguel County. Travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit unrelated to an essential business activity or need is also prohibited.

Similar shelter in place orders have been issued in Dougherty County and Covington, Georgia. In Covington, city officials also implemented a curfew from 9 pm to 5 am beginning March 20, and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.

Hawaii

Governor David Ige announced a statewide shelter in place order, effective March 25. The order impacts all 1.4 million Hawaii residents, and includes exceptions for outdoor recreation like swimming and surfing. Violations of the order are punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $5,000. All visitors to the islands must stay in their homes or hotel rooms as much as possible.

Idaho

On March 17, local officials in Blaine County issued a shelter in place order for all residents following a spike in cases in the area. The order will remain in effect for residents until April 6, unless it is dismissed or extended.

Blaine County residents are ordered to stay home “unless they need to perform essential activities or go to work to provide essential business and government services.” The county says that individuals may go to grocery stores and gas stations, pick up food to go from restaurants, and recreate outside so long as they follow social distancing. It also orders all business activities to be conducted from home and virtually as much as possible.

Illinois

Governor J. B. Pritzker ordered all Illinois residents to shelter in place beginning March 21 at 5 pm. Under the order, which will be in effect until at least April 7, residents can only leave their homes to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, or gas stations, and to take walks outside, so long as they follow social distance measures.

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Earlier, Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb of Oak Park ordered residents to shelter in place beginning March 20. The village of Oak Park borders the west side of Chicago, which had not ruled out issuing a similar order, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Indiana

Governor Eric Holcomb ordered residents to shelter in place beginning March 25. “The next two weeks are critical if we’re going to slow the spread,” said Holcomb. “We’re all seeing the same trends or waves coming, especially in densely populated areas, but it is spreading to all counties. So stay home, get groceries only when you really need them and buy only what you really need.”

Iowa

Mayor Frank Cownie asked all residents of Des Moines, Iowa to voluntarily shelter in place starting March 21. "Quite frankly we think that one of the best things to do is to urge our residents to stay home, stay healthy and let's flatten out the curve and hopefully contain this pandemic," he said.

Kansas

Officials ordered residents of Douglas, Johnson, Wyandotte, and Leavenworth counties, including the city of Kansas City, Kansas to shelter in place beginning March 24. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes to obtain food, health care, care for friends and family members, and work for a business that has been deemed essential by local government, including hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, laundromats, banks, and restaurants serving delivery and takeout only, among others. Residents are allowed to walk or exercise outdoors and in parks so long as they maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.

Kentucky

Governor Andy Beshear ordered all residents of Kentucky to effectively shelter in place, though he said he would prefer not to call it that. “Shelter in place evokes emotions in us that [there is] a deadly chemical spill near our house or even an active shooter,” Beshear said. “It says get in your house and board it up until we call you. That’s not the way that we will address this coronavirus.”

Much like New York and California, Kentucky residents may leave their homes to obtain food, health care, and work at businesses that the state has deemed essential, like grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, liquor stores, and gas stations. All nonessential businesses must close. Residents may exercise outside so long as they maintain a safe distance from others and do not gather in groups. The order goes into effect 8 pm March 23.

Louisiana

On March 22, Governor John Edwards directed all Louisiana residents to shelter in place and limit their movements. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes for critical needs. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and newsrooms are permitted to stay open, and restaurants may only do takeout and delivery. Gathering in groups is prohibited until at least April 13, when the state will review the order.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a similar stay at home order for all city residents starting March 20. The city government will be limiting its operations and will only provide "basic city services," Cantrell said.

Maine

The OceanView retirement community in Falmouth ordered residents to shelter in place March 20 after four residents tested positive for the virus. A roadblock has been put in place to stop people from entering the community. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah said the community is not a long-term care facility like the nursing home near Seattle where at least 29 residents have died, “but given the vulnerability of the residents there, we’re taking this very seriously.”

Maryland

Governor Larry Hogan has ordered all nonessential businesses to close starting at 5 pm March 23. He said that all Maryland residents should stay in their homes as much as possible, and leave only to get essentials. “Unless you have an essential reason, then you should stay in your home,” Hogan said at a press conference. “This is an exceptionally challenging time.”

Massachusetts

Governor Charlie Baker issued a stay at home order for all Massachusetts residents starting March 24. “Staying at home means only leaving home to address essential needs,” said Baker. “It’s hugely important and it is one very significant way everyone can participate in stopping the spread.”

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Earlier, Baker had ordered all nonessential businesses and organizations in the state to close for at least two weeks. Essential businesses, including health care, law enforcement, food and agriculture, energy companies, and others, may remain open. "Everyone should know we will always allow all grocery stores, pharmacies, and other types of businesses that provide essential goods and services to Massachusetts residents to continue to operate," said Barker. "And we will not stop anyone from accessing these essential businesses."

Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered all Michigan residents to shelter in place beginning March 24. Residents may only leave their homes to obtain food, health care, or work for an essential business. Residents may walk or exercise outside so long as they maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.

“In just 13 days, we’ve gone from 0 to over 1,000 Covid-19 cases,” Whitmer said at a press conference. “The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary.”

Minnesota

Governor Tim Walz ordered all Minnesotans to shelter in place beginning March 27. The order will be in effect until April 10, unless extended. “The virus will still be here when this two-week period is over, but we’ll be better prepared,” Walz said on Twitter. “We will work with our health care sector, manufacturers, business community, and strong-spirited Minnesotans across the state to tackle this virus head on.”

Mississippi

Mayor Jason Shelton of Tupelo ordered residents of the northeastern Mississippi city to shelter in place and cease all nonessential business operations. Utility disconnections, evictions, and foreclosures will also be suspended.

“I mistakenly waited for the state to act,” Shelton said at a press conference. “I understand that the state is not going to issue any orders to assist the city. So local governments, cities and counties, are going to be on their own.”

Missouri

Officials ordered all residents of Kansas City, Missouri and surrounding Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties to shelter in place beginning March 24. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes to obtain food, health care, care for friends and family members, and work for a business that has been deemed essential by local government, including hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, laundromats, banks, and restaurants serving delivery and take-out only, among others. Residents are allowed to walk or exercise outdoors and in parks so long as they maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.

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Weddings, funerals, wakes, and all other “nonessential business and other nonessential operations must cease.” Childcare facilities can continue operating so long as they serve no more than 10 children at a time. “If folks have been following our directives already then this is not a substantial change,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

New Jersey

Governor Phil Murphy ordered all 9 million New Jersey residents to shelter in place beginning 9 pm March 21. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, laundromats, and health care facilities. Much like New York and California's orders, residents are permitted to leave their homes to exercise outdoors and work in essential industries. Employees who must report to work during this time are encouraged to obtain a letter from their employer noting they work in an "industry permitted to continue operations," according to the state's coronavirus website.

New Mexico

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all New Mexico residents to shelter in place effective March 24. Residents are permitted to exercise outside and walk their pets so long as they stay at least 6 feet away from others, do not congregate in groups of more than five, and return home as quickly as possible. The order will be enforced using civil and criminal penalties as necessary, she said. “Everyone in this state has a social contract for responsibility for one another,” said Grisham at a press conference. “If you don’t take this seriously then we can’t reduce the spread.”

New York

On March 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a shelter in place order, though he said at a press conference he would prefer not to call it that. Beginning March 22 at 8 pm, all New York state residents are ordered to stay at home as much as possible. People who are 70 or older, or immunocompromised, are not permitted to visit households with multiple people, must wear a mask when in the company of others (though whether they will be able to find one is unclear), prescreen visitors and aides by taking their temperature, stay 6 or more feet away from other people, and stay away from public transit unless it is an emergency.

Healthy people under 70 should leave their homes only to get groceries and medicine, but are permitted to exercise and walk outside so long as they remain 6 or more feet away from others at all times.

All nonessential gatherings of people are banned, and all nonessential businesses must keep their employees at home. Essential businesses include grocery stores and other food providers, gas stations, health care providers, pharmacies, convenience stores, hardware stores, auto repair shops, banks, laundromats, childcare providers, utility services, delivery services, warehouses and manufacturers, plumbers, animal care providers, transportation services, and construction companies. Restaurants are permitted to provide takeout and delivery services so long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“These provisions will be enforced," said Cuomo. "These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That's where we are."

Ohio

Governor Mike DeWine ordered all Ohio residents to shelter in place beginning March 24. In a press conference, DeWine said Ohioans would only be permitted to leave their homes to obtain food, medical care, and to exercise or walk pets. Daycares will not be able to operate unless they obtain a special “pandemic” license, DeWine said.

Oregon

Governor Kate Brown issued a shelter in place order for all residents. Those who violate the order can be charged with a class C misdemeanor for endangering public health and fined up to $1,250 or jailed for up to 30 days.

Pennsylvania

Mayor Jim Kenney ordered all residents of Philadelphia to shelter in place beginning 8am March 23. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes to obtain food, health care, work at essential businesses, and exercise outdoors so long as they maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others. Kenney said the order came after Philadelphia residents defied previous recommendations from city officials urging voluntary social distancing.

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“There were too many people out, too many people on the street. We had to close our playgrounds because there were literally hundreds of kids playing basketball,” Kenney said at a press conference. “It just didn’t seem like people were taking it all that serious..”

Residents of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, and Montgomery counties are also under shelter in place orders as of March 23.

Starting March 23, Governor Tom Wolf ordered all businesses in the state that were not “life-sustaining” to shut down.

Tennessee

The Metro Public Health Department ordered all residents of Nashville and Davidson County to stay in their homes and limit movement outside to "what is absolutely necessary" on March 22. Residents can leave their homes to get food, health care, and walk or exercise outdoors, so long as they maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others. Nonessential businesses must close, and restaurants and bars may only do take-out and delivery.

The city of Memphis is also under a shelter in place order effective 6 pm March 24.

Texas

Dallas County, McLennan County, and the city of Waco issued shelter in place orders beginning March 23 after Governor Greg Abbott welcomed local officials to do so.

Vermont

Beginning March 25 at 5 pm, all Vermont residents must stay at home, leaving only for essential trips, ordered Governor Phil Scott. The state will also suspend Amtrak services. “I need you to stay at home,” Scott said. “Doing so will save lives. It’s just that simple.”

Washington

Governor Jay Inslee ordered all residents of Washington state, site of some of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks in the US, to shelter in place effective March 23.

West Virginia

Governor Jim Justice ordered all West Virginia residents to shelter in place beginning 8 pm March 24. The state was the last in the country to report its first coronavirus case.

Wisconsin

On March 23, Governor Tony Evers ordered all Wisconsin residents to shelter in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. All nonessential businesses within the state must close, and Wisconsinites must stay in their homes unless obtaining food, medical care, working at an essential business, or exercising outdoors while remaining 6 feet away from others.

“No sleepovers, no play dates, and no dinner parties with friends and neighbors," Evers said on Twitter.

I’m under a shelter in place order. Can I …

… go to the hair or nail salon?

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Nope, these businesses are (or should be) closed, as the services cannot be performed while maintaining social distancing measures.

… do my laundry?

In most places, yes, laundromats are open. Make sure that you maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people while traveling to and from the laundromat and while cleaning your clothes.

… shop for groceries?

Yes.

… walk my dog?

Yep, so long as you stay at least 6 feet away from other people while you do it.

… go to the airport?

Technically, yes, airports are not covered by shelter in place orders. Is it a wise idea to travel during a pandemic? Probably not.

… go to the doctor?

If you are having a medical emergency or have made an appointment with a doctor, yes. However most government officials recommend that people utilize telemedicine as much as possible to reduce the strain on hospitals and doctors’ offices, and to reduce the likelihood of infection.

… go see my friends?

Physically? No, you must practice social distancing measures. Virtually? Yes.

… go for a run or work out outside?

If you are healthy and stay 6 or more feet away from others at all times, yes.

… leave town?

Ostensibly, yes, no one will stop you. However, nonessential travel is highly discouraged.

Updated, 3-23-20, 5:45 pm ET: An earlier version of this article misstated the areas affected in Missouri and Kansas.


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